Dear GOAL Members and Friends,
When I think back over the last few years, I never imagined that I would be addressing you in the midst of a pandemic that forces distance between us, and yet is an important part of a moment in which our profession and the people we protect are colliding.
Today, we are experiencing civil disobedience in some corners, and violent civil unrest in others, the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. Then again, now is hardly a normal time -- we're forced indoors when we're not at work. Kids are out of school indefinitely. Our communities are sitting and waiting to resume life. We're policing whether people wear a mask in public. Uncertainty is everywhere.
Then we see things like Amy Cooper threatening to use us against people doing nothing wrong. And we are confronted with deaths like George Floyd, where a former member of our profession disgraced everything about what it means to wear a uniform, spitting on our collective sworn oaths, giving the world a perfect worst-case scenario for problems we know and we confront, especially as LGBTQ persons, in our profession.
What we have seen on the streets of Brooklyn that followed these flash points is difficult to digest. Many of you have policed hundreds of peaceful protests. We are called on to ensure people at those protests can exercises their First Amendment freedoms safely. But, the protests of the past week aren't all peaceful. There's nothing peaceful about throwing a molotov cocktail at a marked police vehicle with uniformed officers inside of it. There's nothing peaceful about throwing a brick in a cop's face. Those actions can never be accepted, nor should they be. Because of actions like that, fourteen police officers have received treatment in hospital emergency departments since last night.
However, we're entrusted with protecting the public safety for a reason: we voluntarily stood and took an oath that we would devote ourselves to that mission. So we all need to take a hard look at what we saw yesterday from our colleagues. Some of their conduct, to put it simply, cannot be excused. Some of the imagery we are confronting in the news and across social media only reinforces for millions the stereotypes we struggle to prove are just that, an oversimplified and perverted idea of what it means to be a sworn law enforcement officer. And it really forces us to ask ourselves whether we are serving as the kind of criminal justice professional we demand in our profession and that we hope others will emulate in their work.
All this to say is that we have a tough and painful road ahead and much work to be done. As criminal justice professionals. As LGBTQ members of our line of work. And as New Yorkers and fellow citizens to those whose pain is leading them to protest. The only way we can travel that road is together, supporting one another as well as the people we protect
Let me start us down that road together with thanks and gratitude. Thank you for your devotion. For your sacrifices. For having the courage to publicly be you and serve as an example for others. Whether you intended it or not, every day you come in the door you affect change. You educate people in a system that has long oppressed and caused pain for many people in our community simply by being and doing. You exhibit the utmost pride and courage, and there are countless people who are relying on the fact that you do. I hear from them every day. No matter what adversity you face, you show up. We as GOAL may not have the largest membership or the largest demographics in our workplaces, but we remain the strongest and nothing can give me more pride.
Despite the recent events, you would have heard from me regardless today as Pride month is set to begin. I had planned a very different message for today, a message to kick off pride month, a message to announce a new social media campaign, a message to let you know that you will see a new website over the summer months, a message to let you know about big things on the horizon and a message to let you know how hard we have been working as a board to provide better services for you and what we have been up to during this pandemic, a message to tell you all how proud I am of you.
There will be time for that later; luckily, Pride lasts for a full month! But for right now, I implore you to be extra vigilant; your safety and well being are always my first priority. I also ask you to continue to be the amazing, compassionate and determined people that I know you are. People are depending on us to show the way forward, people have their faith in you. Society has never needed the members of the Gay Officers Action League more than they do right now!
Brian E. Downey
Gay Officers Action League, Inc.